Material Differences: Art and Identity in Africa
April 2 - June 19, 2005
Featuring approximately 100 objects of African art drawn from public and private collections, Material Differences explores the diversity of art creation in sub-Saharan Africa. Organized to highlight the types of materials, techniques and artistic processes used in African art, the exhibition seeks to question and reveal the unique relation of material to the role of the artist in African societies.
The wide variety of natural materials in Africa allows for a tremendous range of expression. The objects artists create carry ideas of power, protection, and spiritual purpose. Artists weigh choices about the materials they use that reflect myriad religious, economic, or social motivations. A specific material may be associated with a favorable quality such as strength, and the chosen material imbues the object with traits, both visual as well as ethereal.
In exploring the meaning behind material and object, the exhibition begins by looking at mediums considered to be ephemeral (of short duration) such as fibers and mud. Fire is considered to be an important tool of transformation in the making of iron, copper alloys, gold, and ceramic artworks, and those who work with fire often hold elevated stature in African societies. The exhibition also examines the use of wood, ivory, and stone, which are distinguished by the subtractive processes of sculptors. Examples are drawn from across several nations, including Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An illustrated 160 page catalogue accompanies the exhibition with essays contributed by pioneering scholars Frank Herreman, Dr. Roy Sieber, Professor Christopher Roy, and Professor William Dewey, with independent scholars Dr. Paula Girshek and Jerry Vogel. Photographs and a video will illuminate for the viewer why objects are created in particular ways.